Encouraging your child to get active and take part in recreational activities is not only good for their body, it’s also good for their self-esteem and confidence too — and it can be a great way for them to meet new friends who share similar interests.
Making contact with a disability support organisation – such as Autism NZ, the Cerebral Palsy Society or Down Syndrome Association – is a great first step to getting out and meeting people. You can find a directory of support groups at New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders.
You’ll find many support organisations provide opportunities for you, your family and your child to socialise and participate in planned activities and friendship groups. You can also look at organisations like Big Brother Big Sister if you think your child would benefit from having a mentor.
If you live in Auckland, Christchurch or the Waikato, Recreate New Zealand provides quality experiences for youth with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities in three different age groups – from day activities like bowling or zoo visits, to camping trips.
Music and movement classes are a good opportunity for wee ones to explore the world, hone their physical development and socialise with other kids. Mainly Music is a church-based initiative that operates throughout New Zealand.
You can also contact your local Parent Centre to find activities for pre-schoolers or visit your local Plunket to see when they run playgroups.
Once your child starts school, they will have lots of opportunities to take part in extra-curricular activities – and not just sports!
Extra-curricular activities are a great way for your child to explore their interests and spend time with friends. Drama, dance, glee club, enviro-clubs, computing and tech clubs — there’s usually something for every young person.
Other youth clubs allow young people to build confidence by taking part in challenging new experiences. Girl Guiding and Scouts are available nationwide and suitable for all ages.
Sports and the outdoors
There are lots of ways your child can get involved in sport. Visit Halberg Activity and search the inclusive sports page to find sports opportunities that match your child’s ability. Halberg also administers the Activity Fund which provides grants to physically disabled young people to help them take part in sport.
Parafed promote sport and recreation for people with physical disabilities and visual impairments. Find your regional Parafed organisation.
Special Olympics New Zealand offers a year-round programme of sports training and competition for children with an intellectual disability. Athletes aged 8 and older can train and compete. Children under 8 can train but not compete.
Sailing is a sport that allows everybody, regardless of ability or disability to take part on a level playing field. There are many opportunities to get on the water in boats that can be adapted to suit anybody. Visit Yachting New Zealand to find accessible sailing opportunities in your region.
New Zealand Riding for the Disabled Association (NZRDA) is a charitable organisation that provides opportunities for anyone with a disability to enjoy safe, healthy, stimulating, therapeutic horse riding and horse-related activities in New Zealand.
Read about Sport Opportunity After School run by Life Unlimited (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha), which provides sporting opportunities for children and young people with disabilities between the ages of 5 and 21. Check out the latest programme.
Art and music
Arts Access Aotearoa supports creative spaces where people can make art, or participate in artistic activities such as theatre, dance, music, film and creative writing.
Star Jam provides an opportunity for young people with disability to explore their talents, meet friends and build confidence through music and performance workshops.
Community events and activities
Here are some websites where you can find out what events are happening in your town:
You can search Eventfinda to find events by date, location or entry price.
i-site is a national network providing visitor information about regional attractions and events — but you don’t have to be a tourist to use it. Find your local i-site.
Your local council’s website usually has information about parks and reserves, public amenities like swimming pools and libraries, and local events.
You can find a list of upcoming events, workshops and support groups, especially for disabled people and their carers on the Firstport website.